And the Oscar goes to ... one Eagle film writer's picks

Signs point to a close race for Best Picture honors at Sunday's 90th Academy Award ceremony between "The Shape of Water" and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," but what did we learn from last year's Oscars — other than checks and balances aside the Academy can still screw up the Best Picture announcement? We learned that upsets happen, as when "Moonlight," after much confusion, grabbed the top honor from consensus favorite "La La Land."

So no one should be surprised if there are surprises on Sunday's ABC telecast, hosted for the second year in a row by Jimmy Kimmel. Be ready for caustic jokes about Hollywood sex scandals and the NRA and plenty of references to poor Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, the innocent victims of last year's infamous Best Picture award snafu.


"The Shape of Water" leads the way with 13 nominations, making this imaginative fishman-out-of-water romance and Cold War thriller the favorite. "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," however, has been collecting awards hardware and this twisty revenge flick is fueled by an anger that is appropriate to the current American cultural scene.

Christopher Nolan's riveting war film "Dunkirk" has no momentum going in. If there is an upset it will most likely come from "Get Out," a hugely original "social thriller" in the words of writer-director Jordan Peele.

Will Win — "The Shape of Water"

Deserves To Win — "Dunkirk"

Upset Special — "Get Out."

Has No Business Here — "Call Me By Your Name"

Overlooked — "Wonder Woman: " An outstanding superhero flick from a feminist and anti-war perspective.


"Shape of Water" director Guillermo Del Toro has been circling around this category off and on for years and this is the year he gets the Oscar. "Three Billboards" director Martin McDonagh didn't get nominated, and while the Academy will split the Best Picture and Best Director awards it doesn't happen often. McDonagh, primarily a writer of caustic, black comic plays, will get his award in the Original Screenplay category. (James Ivory appears to be on his way to what amounts to a lifetime achievement award for "Call Me By Your Name" in the Adapted Screenplay competition.)

However, if Peele, the first African-American to get nominations in the screenplay, director and picture categories in the same year, takes Original Screenplay, that could signal wins for "Get Out" in the Director and Best Picture categories to wrap up the ceremony in dramatic fashion.

Will Win — Guillermo Del Toro, "The Shape of Water"

Deserves To Win — Christopher Nolan, "Dunkirk"

Upset Special — Jordan Peele, "Get Out."

Has No Business Here — Paul Thomas Anderson, "The Phantom Thread"

Overlooked — Patty Jenkins, "Wonder Woman" Greta Gerwig ("Ladybird") became the fifth woman to be nominated in this category. Jenkins should have been the sixth.


The shape-shifting Gary Oldman has been doing extraordinary work for years, but the svelte actor's transformation into the pudgy, jowly and charismatic Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour" will win him his first Academy Award, capping his dominance of the awards season.

Will Win — Gary Oldman, "Darkest Hour"

Deserves to Win — Gary Oldman, "Darkest Hour"

Upset Special — Daniel Kaluuya. This would be quite the upset, but if "Get Out" gets on a roll...

Has No Business Here — Timothee Chalamet, "Call Me By Your Name"

Overlooked — Harry Dean Stanton, "Lucky"

The young Chalamet does good work and he will assuredly be nominated in the future for performances in better films than this meandering travelogue. Stanton, in contrast, capped a long and brilliant career with the irascible title character, a cynic hiding a soft heart.


Frances McDormand's grieving, furious, mother bent on vengeance is a sight to behold in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." She has been collecting hardware all along the awards circuit for weeks and will deservedly win the Oscar in a very strong field of candidates.

Will Win — Frances McDormand, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"

Deserves to Win — Frances McDormand, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"

Upset Special — Sally Hawkins, "Shape of Water." If this film starts collecting Oscars early it could indicate Hawkins, who was terrific as a mute, heroic cleaning lady, could triumph.


Sam Rockwell is the solid favorite for "Three Billboards," but there has been a bit of a backlash by those unhappy because (spoiler alert!) his racist cop enjoys at least a partial reformation by film's end. That shift is certainly defensible, but whether you like McDonagh's plot point or not it doesn't detract from the veteran stage and screen actor's excellent performance.

Should Rockwell and Woody Harrelson as Rockwell's beleaguered boss split the "Three Billboards" vote it could open a path to victory for Willem Dafoe, playing against type as the kind-hearted manager of a welfare hotel in "The Florida Project."

Will Win — Sam Rockwell, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"

Deserves to Win — Sam Rockwell, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"

Upset Special — Willem Dafoe, "The Florida Project"


A two-way race between two respected actresses playing two dramatically different kinds of mothers. Allison Janney plays an abusive mother who drives her daughter to success as an ice skater and misery as a person in "I, Tonya." Laurie Metcalf is a loving mother of an ambitious, difficult teenage daughter she doesn't quite understand in "Ladybird." Give Janney the edge based on her victories on the award circuit.

Will Win — Allison Janney, "I, Tonya"

Deserves To Win — Allison Janney, "I, Tonya."

Upset Special — Mary J. Blige, "Mudbound."


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